A:LOK was amazing. I loved it and I still love it and I love rewatching episodes over and over and over. I love sharing it with anyone and everyone, and I will display it with pride right next to my A:TLA box sets when I own it.
However…. I have a few problems with it.
First, the Avatar State.
It never activated. Bryan, Mike, and Avatar Roku all described the Avatar State as a defense mechanism that would activate whenever the Avatar is in extreme physical or emotional stress. Aang had absolutely no idea what it was, and it activated when he fell into the ocean during the storm, to preserve him in an iceberg. He still had no idea what it was when it activated when Zuko pushed him off the ship into the ocean. After that he understood it better; he knew it would work, but he still had no idea what it was or how to do anything with it on his own until Book 2. And yet it still activated, multiple times, whenever he was in extreme physical or emotional stress.
It didn’t work like that for Korra. Sure, she had no spiritual training, but I don’t think that’s an excuse. Its activation should not depend on training or knowledge. In my opinion, it should have activated many times during the series. During her confrontation with Amon at Aang Memorial Island in “The Voice in the Night” being the first probable time. I don’t think she’d been in that much emotional stress ever before in her life, and she thought she was going to lose her bending right then and there. She was absolutely terrified. I don’t understand why it didn’t happen right then. Other times when she could’ve entered it, though possibly less convenient for the story, are (a) when Tarrlok is arresting Mako, Bolin, and Asami (emotional stress), (b) when she’s falling from the Equalists’ wires after their attack on the Pro-Bending Arena, (c) after she woke up from her dream of being attacked by Chi Blockers on Air Temple Island (possibly just a flash of eyes glowing), (d) seeing Amon’s face on the tapestry when invading the Chi Blocker training as part of Tarrlok’s Task Force (again, possibly just a flash of eyes glowing), (e) when being bloodbended by Tarrlok the first time, and (f), most importantly, when seeing Amon about to take Mako’s bending away.
Which brings me to my second problem, her airbending.
The first two episodes gave me a huge amount of hope. It showed her struggling at first, especially with that wonderful spinning gadget she had to “BE THE LEAF!” through; I thought that was perfect. And then when they used Pro-Bending to demonstrate her using her talent and learning, I thought that was great as well.
But that’s where it ended.
Sure, they showed her practicing her moves and still going through training device a couple more times, but that’s IT. Other than that, it was acknowledged how much she was NOT learning. She kept asking Tenzin for advice on why her learning was going NOwhere, and when Tarrlok confronted her on it as Saikhan was promoted to Chief in Beifong’s leave, they showed once more how utterly little she had improved. She looked so crestfallen, so defeated, in admitting she had made NO progress when answering Tarrlok. This would have been fine if they planned some other event, something spiritual or free or in the airbending frame of mind, to help her overcome it. But no… instead, they waited till the very last episode to suddenly “unlock” her airbending. The reason she unlocks it wasn’t in the airbender frame of mind; it was simply because she had no other “weapon” to use, and because she was saving her crush from losing his own bending (more of a selfish reason in my mind). She did not use it in the airbender frame of mine; she still used very firebender-like movements, which could possibly be excused by the dire situation but I still didn’t like that. And lastly, I don’t feel like airbending should be able to be “unlocked” at all. That’s not how bending works. It needs to be slowly mastered and understood. Like I said above, I think it would make far more sense for her to have entered the Avatar State at that point.
Finally, my last problem was what Aang did at the end.
Sure, I’m fine with the fact that he showed up. I’m in fact very pleased with the fact that he did– as opposed to airbending, the series had showed a lot of progress she had made in connecting with Aang all along, so that’s great. It showed her flashbacks to him and then finally understanding the flashbacks, all leading up to this point. That’s what I’d want with the airbending. But I digress.
What I’m completely not okay with is that Aang essentially handed Korra the Avatar State plus mastery of it on a silver platter. Aang, as I discussed above, had activated it many times throughout Books 1 and 2. He gained an understanding of what it was at beginning of Book 2, through contact with Roku. That would have been fine for Korra. At the end of Book 2, he met with the nomad Guru Pathik and spent an entire episode learning all about the Avatar State and preparing his body, physically and mentally, for mastery of it. Korra did nothing even near that. Aang made a mistake in this process, and then over the course of the next episode, understood that mistake and resolved it. Then he meditated, and gained mastery of it. Sure, Azula blocked it physically and he later unblocked it physically, but that’s irrelevant for this comparison. He went through that entire process, having already had a strong point in the spiritual aspect of it and a respect for the power he wielded. And then he goes and just hands it over to Korra, who was still an amateur in Spirituality and had ZERO experience with the Avatar State. And then she could suddenly control it fully. I’m in complete disagreement with this.
As I said, I’m happy Korra made contact with Aang. She DESERVED that; she’d earned it through experience throughout the season. However, I would have preferred Aang done nothing but perhaps congratulate her on a complete connection with him. That would be an accomplishment worthy of a season finale. Or, if he had to hand her something, maybe grant her wisdom on airbending. Show her what it really means, what the freedom the element represents is really like, flashback on his own training, help her understand something deeper about airbending, to give her that extra nudge to continue her training. Not even grant her mastery– definitely not. Just help her out. That would have been great, IMO, for the season finale. If it had gone like that, she still would not have water, earth, or firebending; she would have been forced to solve her problems with her new airbending, learn to use it better. And learn about the Avatar State more.
I could also say that I’m also annoyed with the character development of Korra and Bolin through the season, but I won’t rant about that. I’m also ticked off about how Mako treated Asami, and I don’t think that Mako deserves Korra. But I think I’ll just end here.
To the Library!!!